Eat, attend classes, study and sleep – it’s the same daily routine for every inmate in IIT Bombay hostels. In this process, students also send their trash to the Kanjurmarg landfill through the current waste management process. This out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach towards the waste generated by every student has had our waste entering a myriad of places including landfills, oceans and waterways brimming with trash. A significant part of this jumbled up mess can be put to reuse, however, it becomes challenging to segregate the recyclables from the waste as it is compacted before dumping in landfills.
The solid waste management from 2016 mandates that the waste generator segregate the waste into wet, dry and hazardous before handing over to the authorized local bodies. The implementation of this law not effective owing to several reasons like lack of co-ordination between the residents and authorities, lack of composting capacity to handle wet waste and improper training to the workers handling this waste. Managing our own waste is often neglected due to lack of interest, knowledge or responsibility.
In the current state, mixed waste leaving the campus premises is negatively impacting downstream processes and the people involved in its sustainable management. The main concern with this mixed waste is that in order to extract the useful things, it has to be handled manually by the waste workers under hazardous conditions. Mixed waste also loses its value for it cannot be composted or recycled and ultimately this mixed waste, with minimal resource recovery, ends up in the landfills. Hence, the segregation of waste at the source is the most crucial activity in the waste management process.
No matter how many experts are consulted for solid waste management, we will end up arriving at segregation at source as the key solution. Having said this, the success of this solution is dependent on the support from the administration and active participation of the students and residents of the campus.
As the waste that comes from student hostels is very dynamic, it requires a multi-pronged approach. The importance of community involvement and their participation in solid waste management cannot be over-emphasized. One must also be aware that our campus premises are dynamic and need a local solution.
Team zero waste firmly believes segregation of waste at source not only converges waste of all forms but also helps in maximizing the resource recovery, thereby saving our precious natural resources and landfill space. This also enables a hygienic environment for the people involved in sorting waste, thus supporting dignified livelihood opportunities.
According to an estimate, IIT Bombay generates around 2 tonnes of dry waste every day which is sent to the Kanjurmarg landfill owing to its mixed state. Only a small percentage of this waste can be recycled in today’s condition owing to the mixed waste form, thus limiting the scope of recycling. In addition to this, 5 tonnes of wet waste is generated daily out of which around 3 to 3.5 tonnes is sent to the landfill and the rest is sent to the biogas plant set up on the campus.
As Zero Waste and Circular Economy have gained wide support and momentum in the campus, it is imperative to start adapting ourselves and living with these simple ideas. While systemic changes are essential to driving these concepts (which are still at a nascent stage), one critical and low-cost intervention that can bring about a significant impact on how waste is segregation of waste at its source, by individual students.
Segregation at Source Pilot at Hostels 10 & 13
Upon our survey with the campus residents, we have realized the sad state of affairs. There is limited awareness among waste generators on ‘what to segregate’ and ‘how to segregate.’ To address these issues, we have come up with the three-bin approach methodology with wet, recyclable dry and non-recyclable landfill waste as the components.
With the support of various stakeholders including the administration, a pilot plan for segregation at source can be implemented. An extensive list of items bin wise has been made based on the typical waste mix from a student’s room. The segregation guide can be displayed near every dustbin point and awareness regarding segregation at source can be done through multiple channels – social media, posters in hostels, emails, etc.
An Initiative to Bring an Attitude Change in Students
We intend to start segregation at source through a pilot in two hostels H10 and H13. The idea behind this pilot is to start the segregation with two hostels and continuously monitor to observe any shortcomings. Upon 2-3 months of completion of the pilot, the same process will be expanded to all hostels and academic buildings, residential areas.
The recyclable dry waste collected above will be directly handed over to Shree Mukti Sangha then for recycling purpose and the non-recyclable will go through the current waste chain ending up in the landfill. The wet waste too will end up in landfills due to lack of composting facility near the hostels. The pilot will help in estimating the waste generated daily and pushing for a compostable unit at every hostel with the support of Institute administration and alumni.
One cannot deny that the producer of the waste is the best person to segregate as they have better knowledge in dealing with the waste and can properly deal with the waste as it is generated. This can be also seen as a moral responsibility as the producer has an obligation to discard the waste at the right place and not the recycler further down the chain. It is strongly recommended to encourage these practices at the earliest with the support of good infrastructure and proper systems in place. As a matter of fact, India imports a huge portion of the segregated plastic waste from several countries due to a lack of waste in the segregated form in our country. If segregation at source is followed diligently, much of the waste we generate can be used for recycling.
The pilot is aimed at bringing a change in the student’s mindset about treating used plastic as an asset and not waste. By sensitizing the students to the plight of the waste ending up in our landfills and the working conditions of the waste workers who scavenge through the mixed waste a sense of ownership can be instilled among the inmates of IIT Bombay. Eventually, we aspire to see everyone taking responsibility for their own waste and sincerely adopting this behavioral change.
This initiative of ours is a small step in our commitment towards making IIT Bombay a net-zero contributor to the waste. This is a collective journey and each one of the IIT residents, particularly students have to make steady strides towards creating a greener and more sustainable world.
Here’s to a great start to a campus without waste!
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